Neither as steamy as its title nor as impenetrable as the academic stereotype.

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PLEASURE BOUND

VICTORIAN SEX REBELS AND THE NEW EROTICISM

Illumination of how changing attitudes toward religion and sexuality transformed the arts and culture of Victorian England.

By now it has become widely accepted scholarly knowledge that the Victorian age wasn’t as repressed as is commonly caricatured. Lutz (Victorian Literature and Culture/Long Island Univ., C.W. Post; The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Seductive Narrative, 2006) attempts to reach beyond an academic readership in her interwoven accounts of the likes of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Richard Burton, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Oscar Wilde. Perhaps the greatest revelations lie in her exhumation of the painter Simeon Solomon, then notorious, now a “forgotten martyr, his art and life a disappearing act perpetuated by his intolerant times.” With Darwinism threatening Christianity and art asserting a value higher than conventional morality, poets, painters and pleasure seekers alike felt liberated to explore the “dark, secret places” and find ecstasy in the previously unspeakable. Though she offers plenty of reference to sodomy and sadomasochism, Lutz’s prose too often succumbs to cliché—“pains in the neck”; “spread like wildfire”—but generally avoids the overwrought opacity of much academic writing. The author credits the age with reviving the legacies of Blake, Shelley and Keats, and with anticipating the expectation “that it seems somehow ‘normal,’ that the artist (or, today, movie or rock star) must have a complicated, even scandalous, sexual life.” Her cultural criticism resists viewing the era through a contemporary lens, as she acknowledges that the term “homosexual” didn’t enter the parlance until the 1880s and that the changing roles of women resist modern feminist revisionism. Yet Lutz reinforces the cultural significance of an era in which “Art (with an unashamed capital A) was more worthy of worship than a stony, distant god.”

Neither as steamy as its title nor as impenetrable as the academic stereotype.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-06832-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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